12 September 2020

TEN Reasons Solo Travel Sucks


Athena and I after trying the poop coffee in Peru, near Cusco.

"One day you will wake up and there will be no more time to do the things you've always wanted. Do it now."

~ Paulo Coelho

Yes, of course I talked about the reasons why SOLO travel is a MUST-DO in my last blog post. Well, there are two sides to every coin and story. The idea is that, like many things in life, you have to take the good with the bad and keep things in perspective. It's not always about a brighter side or sunny days. There is magic in the storms as well. Solo travel is indeed a must-do, but when you do it, keep these ten things in mind, too:

My friends, Osmany, Jader and his son. We traveled around Esteli and Somoto in Nicaragua. I got some of my best shots of Nica with them. And a new nickname... Mecha Corta or Short Fuse from my first experience with Nicaraguan police who wanted my camera. Not happening. 

1. You have to do EVERYTHING yourself

There are definitely advantages to doing it yourself, but after a while, it gets old. When you are doing extended travel, like I am, it's easy to get frustrated when you have to find the next hotel to book, select your route to the next destination, or even just figure out where to eat. Sometimes you just want to look over to your imaginary friend and say, "You take this one."

2. We all need somebody to lean on sometimes

This is no joke... and it's inevitable. You can bet your bananas there will come a time when the best thing for you is human companionship, camaraderie, and contact. You will be the lesser for the lack of it, but that doesn't mean you can't overcome what ails you. You might sink into a state of depression, for whatever reason or maybe you are just homesick. Nothing goes as planned all the time and that doesn't change when you are traveling. Why should it? How perfect is your life at home? Why would you expect it to be any different on the road. You just deal with it. But shouldering the burden by yourself can really suck.

Cascades Siete jungle tour, El Salvador. I traveled with Tracie through 5 countries in Central America for 3 months. 20 minutes after this shot is when I had my thumb incident.

3. Second Pair of Eyes

All your stuff has to come into the bathroom with you! Okay, you got that one solved. But what happens when you go to the beach. You can't bring all your stuff with you in the water! And as a photographer, it's good to have someone watching your back while you get those late evening shots or those urban scenes. You never know who else has eyes on YOU! Besides that, I guarantee you that you'll try to follow directions looking for street numbers or landmarks. Having a second pair of eyes to help find the right corner where your bus lets you off might be the crucial element between you getting to your hostel or winding up across town. 

4. Who takes great pics of YOU? (Particularly when you're doing something stupid.)

Self-explanatory. Get used to those handheld selfies!

The Black Souls of Esteli, Nicaragua asked if I wanted to take a ride. I couldn't see a reason not to run off with a biker group I just met.

5. When you absolutely MUST get up in the morning

You know there are those moments when you cannot depend on yourself to get up early in the morning. You need that other person to say, "Hey! We got a plane to catch. Get your ass up!"

6. You can read only so many books

I'd call myself an avid reader

. When you travel long term like I do, books go only so far. There will be some boring ass days when all you have on your to-do list is... NOT A DAMN THING! Well, I guess you could right that book. HA! Right...

"Some beautiful paths cannot be discovered without getting lost.'

~ Erol Ozan

Art Model Kristi and I catching a ride on a fishing boat to Little Corn Island during bad weather. A 30-minute fast boat trip turned into 3 hours on this sea crawler!

7. When you REALLY need that 2nd opinion

Can't tell you how many times I've been in this situation. You don't know what you're missing, not seeing, or forgetting about the directions on where you are supposed to go, which bus to take, or what that sign says. Having that second person to overlap your gaps keeps you from looking stupid or making big mistakes.

8. Going to a nice restaurant by yourself? PASS!

Table for 1? I don't think so. I'm not doing it. I'll get something to go, but I'm not eating at a fine dining spot by myself. You just look stupid and desperate. But that could just be my own insecurities. I get that, and will own it. 

9. Unwanted advances

Ladies...? You know what I'm talking about right? Just because you're single and solo, doesn't mean you are available to every bolo that comes a-callin'. I've been hit on by other men, as well. I'm not sure what signals I'm giving off, but I need to figure it out. I actually got physically assaulted by a dude who's advances I rebuffed. He got dealt with. I emerged from that incident with all my teeth and consciousness. He did not. Watch yourself. 

Lake Titicaca. Jenny and I traveled together for 3 weeks in Peru from the northern edge to the southern border.

10. Sharing those special moments and memories.

I have some travel buddies and it's always a beautiful thing to reminisce about that time spent together enjoying a travel moment. I have many fond memories having been with a significant other as well as someone platonic. Having someone with you, even as a witness, who recounts the same cherished experience is a blessing.

11. Bonus! Having to laugh BY yourself!

Yeah, you know what I'm talking about. You hear something funny on TV, Facebook, or Netflix and the only one available to laugh with you is the person in the mirror. The cool thing is that they will laugh back if they are all you have. 

Oh... and I have no idea where "bet your bananas" came from. I just... I'm sorry. 

My baby brother and I on a road trip traveling to Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas. 

01 September 2020

TEN Reasons Solo Travel Is a Must-Do at Some Point in Your Life

 "The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” 

~ Eleanor Roosevelt


Traveling of any kind is not the easiest thing to do right now, especially if you are from the US. That being said, we can still at least talk about travel, right? Traveling through Central America, South America, and now Southeast Asia has been a definite highlight of my life. Fear has gripped me at times, but I have a tendency to want to do the things I fear. I grew up afraid a lot and had to learn to master many different aspects of fearful things in my life. I got bullied. My cousin taught me to fight back. To do that, he taught me getting hit in the face wasn't the worst thing in the world. Then I began to stand my ground and give hits as well as I took them. That moment was the beginning of my observation of the fear in myself and my desire to not let it conquer me. Vietnam scared me. That's even the title of a blog post. Now I'm here in Vietnam and don't want to leave. These are my 10 reasons solo travel is a must-do for you at some point in your life. By the way, all the women in these portraits are world travelers doing their own thing, whom I've met along the way. The first one, Heather, is a dear friend who is likely the biggest influence on my travel habits today. 


If it's just you, you can eat someplace cheap or skip meals. If it's you and a buddy, partner, or spouse, you will likely feel obligated to eat somewhere where you both can agree and you're more likely to eat someplace that is more upscale than had you been by yourself. I can skip breakfast, (usually because I sleep in and miss it.) and I do not feel some sense of obligation to get breakfast so the other person doesn't eat alone. This isn't with just food. You are more likely to take cheaper transportation if you are by yourself. You can get a smaller, thus cheaper room. Now you can save your money for the things that really matter, like experiences, tours, etc.


2. Time is on Your Side

You can set your own clock now and chose to delay or ignore it entirely. When you want to move, go somewhere, or do anything, you can wait or do it earlier and not have to worry about breaking an agreed upon timetable with someone else. I did a 6-hour cave tour once. I can tell you for fact, I would never have been able to say that had I waited for all the people who told me they would gladly do it with me. Instead, I jumped in my car, drove the two and a half hours to Mammoth Caves, signed up with a tour group, and just did it. 


3. Freedom to Chart Your Own Course

Trying to decide on where to go? Now you can make that trip that you've always wanted when nobody else wanted to. You are the decision maker of your own course. Try it!

4. Freedom to Change Your Mind

At your leisure, you can choose to stay at one spot longer than intended or leave early. You can cancel a certain part of a trip or add onto your itinerary as you like. It's up to you. 


5. The Things You Learn About Yourself

Not everything is going to go as planned. Things happen. You will learn much more self-reliance and self-confidence that will benefit you in so many other ways in life. You will absolutely be able to check the block on Personal Growth. I'm here on my own in Vietnam during a GLOBAL pandemic. I can tell you it has not been the easiest choice to make to stay and not run home. And I am so glad I chose to stay.

“The more I traveled the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends” 

~ Shirley MacLaine


6. Meeting New People 

Lots of people you meet on the road while traveling will chose not to engage you if you are already with someone else, mostly locals. If you are alone, I think you are much more approachable and they will be more apt to help you with food selections, directions, reading menus, etc. Next thing you know, you're having beers together, playing pool, or going on trips. Now you have a local guide!

7. New Experiences Will Build You Up

Right in line with learning about yourself and meeting new people, you will encounter these new experiences that will become the stories of your life. This is what living is all about. It is a process of learning and these are experiences that you bring back home will encourage others to follow your path. 


8. Facing Challenges When Plans Fall Apart

Not all these experiences have positive outcomes, but you learn how to deal with them and overcome them. And these are character building exercises that help you grow as a person. Becoming a traveler helps you grow as a person and a human being. But that only works if you learn to take each negative experience and learn from them. That's just life. But here's the real gem. Sometimes when things don't go according to plan, it's a good thing. They will often go better than you could ever have imagined.


9. Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

This is the greatest thing you can do for yourself. It is impossible to grow as a person unless you remove yourself from your own fishbowl. Swim in new waters. See how other cultures have lived their lives and learn what you can from them. 

10. More Thorough Reflection of It All

Solo travel is a special thing. And when you look back through it all, you see how tough, smart, and resourceful you really are. It may inspire you to write a book or a blog post, but you will inevitably contemplate why you hadn't done it sooner AND why everyone doesn't do solo travel from time to time. 

“Women need real moments of solitude and self-reflection to balance out how much of ourselves we give away.” 

~ Barbara De Angelis

I am no where near done and, God willing, I'll continue this adventure for several more years. As I look back on the 32 months I've been traveling like this, I see all the faces of the people whom I've met that have helped me, took care of me, and entertained me along the way. I have learned so much in this time and I want to experience so much more. There is a whole lot of unseen world yet for me to explore and I can't wait. Well, I am willing to wait here in Vietnam for a while and let the world settled back down a little. I figure another year here will suffice... hopefully. 

Be sure to catch me next time when I tell you about why Solo Travel sucks. 


22 August 2020

Believe It or Not, The Sony A7SIII is Not for Me


Art Model, Safia Sarai by Terrell Neasley

“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the most pleasant sensations in the world.” 

~ Freya Stark

Sony recently announced the new and long awaited, A7SIII and it's expected to be in stores sometime in September. I just can't do it. Great camera. Can't do it. Why? Okay...but first, some background.

At one point, I owned all THREE of Sony's full frame line-up of cameras. I had the A7II, the A7S, and the A7RII. Via a twist of misfortune, I sold my A7S to get the A7SII, only to find out they sold out and the camera was not available to me for quite a while. Otherwise, I would have had all three number 2 versions of each model. This was during a time, when I had everything. I even upgraded my ex-girlfriend's camera from the a6000 to the a6100, so I had that available to me, if I needed it.  

This was my all-in investment into mirrorless systems and leaving DSLRs for good and I have not looked back. I said a long time ago that mirrorless was the future and that Canon and Nikon would eventually make a change as well. Now you can see both companies coming out with their R and Zed systems, respectively. The Canon 5D model has been discontinued, but Nikon is still trying to play both sides promising a new Mirrorless AND a DSLR update to the D850. I think this will be another costly mistake that Nikon can't really afford.The DSLR is done. You can bet this will be the last run of their big sports cameras, the 1DX-series and the D6,  to go full on head to head with Sony's A9 series

Art Model, Safia Sarai by Terrell Neasley

So yeah. I'm all in on Mirrorless. BUT, that was then. This is now. The main difference: SHELVES! Back then, I had a house with shelves that I could put my cameras on. I had no less than 10 different bags and Pelican cases that I could carry them around in. In addition, I had a CAR to transport them from home to gig and back. 

Today, I have my Osprey Aether AG 70, a Thinktank Urban Disguise 60v2, and the lumbar spine of my BACK! That's it. I'm limited to two camera bodies and I prefer a particular complimentary system. Every since I was a Canon shooter with the 5DM2 and the 7D, I have preferred having a full frame body and a crop to compliment it. For my shooting style, it has always been the best situation for me. I, sort of, stumbled on that when I purchased the 5D2 and then could not keep my hands off the 7D when it came out. I gave my Canon 40D to my daughter. To me, the 7D would be the prefect back-up camera because that's what you always heard about shooting gigs. You always need a back-up. And I agree with that. The 7D was good enough to be the perfect back-up without having to invest into another expensive full-frame camera. 

Art Model, Safia Sarai by Terrell Neasley

I have never wanted DUPLICATE cameras. Having two 5DMarkII's was not anything I desired. I wanted them to be complimentary, not just a duplicate back-up. This is why I said, I stumbled into it. I was shooting with my good friend John Kompare in Las Vegas. He had invited me to go shoot with him at a bird sanctuary. I brought both my cameras and had my 70-200mm lens on the Canon 5DMarkII. I was trying to get a shot overhead at 200mm. I looked at the photo I took on the LCD screen. I wasn't pleased and said something aloud about it. The conversation when something like this:

Me: Dang. I like it, but 200mm is the closest I can get. If only I had like... maybe a 300mm, instead. I guess I can crop in on this. 

John: Yeah... Or you can pop that 70-200 onto your Canon 7D and take advantage of the 1.6 crop factor.

Art Model, Safia Sarai by Terrell Neasley

“This is the journey of your life. Don’t try to explain it to others, because only you can see it.” 

~ Nitin Namdeo

And just like that... Complimentary! I have loved that style of shooting every since. It was more than just a back up system. It was a complimentary system. Even now, I shoot with a Sony A7R2 and the Sony a6500. I have limited myself to 2 lenses... the Sony 55mm f/1.8 and the Tamron 24mm f/2.8 (thanks Lucy!). I can shoot portraits with the 55mm on the full frame OR I can also pop it on the a6500 crop sensor camera and shoot the same shot at near 85mm. I can put the Tamron on the full-frame for a 24mm perspective OR I can pop it on the crop for a near 35mm perspective. I have 4 lens perspectives available to me right now, limited only by resolution and maybe ISO qualities. 

Now let's get back to the A7Siii. The "S" is for Sensitivity. This thing is a beast that will shoot in the dark and has a killer dynamic range on a 12MP sensor, as it's always had. A 16MP... maybe even a 20MP sensor would have been a worthwhile upgrade, however. Regardless, this is obviously a video camera. Everything about this screams film-making and while I WISH I could have it, I can't say it's a priority right now, and here's why.

Art Model, Safia Sarai by Terrell Neasley

I already mentioned I prefer the full-frame/crop complementary systems. If I'm doing that, the A7R4  is a must. "R" is for Resolution. If I'm going to upgrade from my A7R2, then the 4 is the most logical choice for me. (And yes... I want that.) The A7R3 was not a viable upgrade option for me. The 4 is. That being said, IF I were to upgrade, I'd have to upgrade my crop as well since the A7R4 takes a different battery than the a6500. I'm not packing TWO DIFFERENT battery and charger types for my main camera systems. THIS MEANS... I have to upgrade to the a6600 along with the A7R4. Savvy?

That keeps me in the complimentary line-up I prefer and enjoy. As it stands, I can get neither of the cameras here in Vietnam. I haven't looked at purchasing them in the US and having them shipped (and likely taxed) here, but the truth is the travel business is like slow AF! Meaning, Autofocus... get your head out of the gutter. I'm doing quite well with my current two bodies and from a business perspective, the upgrade doesn't make sense. Were I stateside and able to control my income better, I'd do it whether it made sense or not! I'd make up the expense somehow and rather quickly. But this is not the case at the moment. I'll look at an upgrade, when I either absolutely NEED it, or possibly when I get back stateside. Instead of going all in, I'm going to hold.

Art Model, Safia Sarai by Terrell Neasley

08 August 2020

New Laptop and the Current Vietnam Covid Situation

Art Model Elizabeth, 2006 Terrell Neasley
Art Model Elizabeth, Copyright 2006 Terrell Neasley

"The muse drags me down many different roads often at the same time." 
~ Colin Poole

My Gigabyte Aero 15x suddenly failed on me and it picked a most inopportune time to do it. I was traveling and extended my stay in a beachfront property down South for an additional week with the specific purpose of writing and editing photos. The next morning after that extension, I woke up and tried to get to work at breakfast only to have my laptop not turn on at all. It just wouldn't power up. Thinking that the power cord came loose, which it was wont to often do, I retrieved it only to find no different result. 

An IT guy from the hotel tried working on it, but to no avail. Therefore I went that whole week just chilling with no ability to work. When I arrived back in Hanoi, two different repair places gave me the same result. Busted chip and no way to get parts. I'd have to replace the motherboard and for whatever reason, nobody had any confidence to get Gigabyte parts. Despite the fact that Gigabyte laptops are made in Taiwan, they said it was a no-go.
Art Model Elizabeth, Copyright 2006 Terrell Neasley

I jumped back on with my Grab-bike driver... like a motorbike Uber, and headed to the computer store for a new laptop. I did not enjoy having to drop another $2K unexpectedly, but sheesh... I can't go without having a laptop.

Enter the MSi GS-66. They didn't have the top tier of this model, but I was able to pull my 32GB of  DDR4 out of the old laptop and install it in the new, which came with 16gigs. I would have much preferred the better graphics card, but the Nvidia RTX 2060 is nothing to sneeze at. I'm back in business and all seems to work fine. The thing does not have an overheating problem having THREE fans and unlike last year's version, the GS-65, the motherboard is easy to get to. It doesn't have the independent number key pad, but other than that, I'm adjusted to it well enough. 

Art Model Elizabeth, Copyright 2006 Terrell Neasley

Currently, I'm waiting on my next visa extension approval. That should be in in another week. On a more aggravating note, we were Covid-free for right at 100 days. Now, it's back! Three times as strong. They are still investigating how the outbreak began, but it coincides with illegal Chinese immigrants who were smuggled into the country in Da Nang. Da Nang is in Central Vietnam and is a hotspot for tourists due to the attraction of it's beautiful beaches. There was not really any international tourism, but domestic tourism has been promoted widely since April to encourage economic growth. It was working. 80,000 local tourists had to be evacuated out of the city, but more than 95,000 departed Da Nang to get out of the epicenter. 

That means the infection also came with it and Vietnam has experienced it's first deaths due to Covid-19 related issues. I believe 10, as of this date. As I mentioned, this strain is faster and more deadly. BUT, it looks like the Vietnamese government is on top of this one too. Quarantines have taken effect again. Masks have been mandated once more. Bars and local gathering spots are off limits as before. I can only trust that we acquire the same results as before and eradicate the Coronavirus again. Stay tuned. 

Art Model Elizabeth, Copyright 2006 Terrell Neasley

This model featured in this post is Art Model, Elizabeth. I've often called our collaboration my first great work. The shots we got were some of my first shots I ever did that I might actually call art, and not just photographs of a naked girl. Beyond that, I'd say she was one of my top 3 original models that taught me about photographing the nude. What she brought to the table to teach me was about model movement and being able to SEE my shot within each shot. I moved in closer and began doing bodyscapes. She would continually move and pose in a manner that helped me learn to direct a model. 

Of course she is a beautiful woman with a great body, but her gift to me was definitely in her movement. For never having done this before, she continued to give me unique looks and shapes. That's what I remember most. We shot twice, I think, against a white backdrop in a studio and later against a black one... all under continuous HOT LIGHTS! I was able to see how to light a subject in both cases. I call her my Godsend Number 1, due to the circumstances in which we first began shooting. A direct, and sudden answer to prayer. It was quite the unique experience. Not even sure she knows that. Anyway, these are negative scans, mainly unedited and Raw. But pure magic, nonetheless.

Art Model Elizabeth, Copyright 2006 Terrell Neasley

05 July 2020

Ode to Faerie AND What Comes Next

Model Faerie, ©Terrell Neasley
"A muse comes down from Mount Olympus and changes my attitude, cheering me up - it's an inner intuition, suddenly giving a breakthrough to be able to move ahead."
~Robert Bateman

Man. Yesterday was my country's Independence Day. In all my years, never has there been one this... somber and impotent. I don't know a damn thing right now worth celebrating. Divisions across the country extend beyond the pugilistic politics and has invaded neighbors, friends, and even family. Racial tensions are on the rise like it was back in 1968. People find it difficult to say simply that Black Lives Matter, because somehow that notion has been turned into a peculiarly negative phrase. Even if that were the belief, shit... change it around. For instance, I could still respect a white person saying,

"I don't fully understand, 'Black Lives Matter', but I will say that I believe that the lives of Black people are just as important as anybody else's in this country and should be afforded the same equality as I would expect for myself!"

Instead... Nope, all we get is "ALL lives matter". No clarification, no elaboration... just a period after MATTER. Somehow, I would have thought that a country that values INDEPENDENCE so much would be the last of any people in the world that would rob those same liberties it fought so desperately for from another human being or group of people. The US, if it were true to that Declaration of Independence, should be the poster nation of countries that refuse to let anything resembling slavery or inequality from every being part of its historical record. In Germany, you can't spout out Nazi rhetoric and not expect to go to jail. Yet we give neo nazi, white supremacists, white nationalists, and the KKK, a major platforms to voice their hate.

"If there be an object truly ridiculous in nature, it is an American patriot, signing resolutions of independency with the one hand, and with the other brandishing a whip over his affrighted slaves."
~ Thomas Day, British Abolitionist, 1776 after the publication of the US Declaration of Independence

Model Faerie, ©Terrell Neasley

In the midst of a pandemic, the United States still remains oblivious to what the country is suffering, compared to the rest of the world. I don't know of another democratic country this wealthy still trending skywards with almost 3 million infections and 130,000 dead, with 50,000 new cases a day and 40 million unemployed... with an administration that thinks it's doing a good job.

Comparatively, Vietnam sits right next to China with one-third the population of the U.S. (and much more densely populated), has 355 TOTAL cases and ZERO DEATHS from Covid-19. In case that didn't make sense, I'll say it another way, because it is work the repetition. NO ONE HAS DIED FROM COVID-19 IN VIETNAM. Only 271 of those were community spread. The rest were repatriated citizens who were infected in other countries. As of two days ago, only 15 active cases remain in the country of 100 million. Do you see what I am saying. That means 130,000 people did not have to die. 3 million people did not have to get infected. Argue about masks, all you want. Vietnam is back to normal now as a country with only one exception... no new tourists. Outside of that, business is back and the economy is already trending upwards. Go ahead and check it out for yourself! You got Google. Argue about Dr. Fauci as you like. Vietnam did the SAME THING this dude has been trying to tell the powers that be in the US. Whatever argument you want to make, the fact remains that there are Americans that are dead right now that didn't have to die. Texas is trending high as a MF right now and that bothers the shit out of me. Most of my family and everybody I know is there.

Model Faerie, ©Terrell Neasley

What's the difference, you ask? It's simple. Vietnam took this pandemic seriously before it was even called a pandemic. They had everyone wear masks, which the citizens did gladly. They didn't have a bunch of test kits to start with so they used quarantines and contact tracing. If you tested positive, they wanted to know everyone you were in contact with and then they monitored those people or put them in quarantine, just in case. I watched it all play out. I was connected to Patient 237, from Sweden. I had to go into quarantine, myself and was glad to do it. Scary? Hell, yes. I'm here alone and I knew of no other tourists who had decided to stay like I did.

Of course, as per my last blog post, I learned that there are yet a few more who did. I am not as alone as I thought. Nonetheless, I was happy to do as I was told. I could only communicate with the people around me and I had questions EVERY SINGLE DAY! These Vietnamese locals told me flat out that they were afraid, but that they had faith in the government and it was part of their culture to pull together as a country and do their part. If the government says wear masks, but the citizens refuse to do it, we fail and everyone gets sick. If we don't have good leadership, we fail and everyone gets sick. And that usually followed a story about pride in the country and achievements they've made to justify it.

Model Faerie, ©Terrell Neasley

There were no protests of rights violation. It's a fuckin' mask. How's that any different from a seat belt, or a helmet if you drive a motorcycle? There were no mixed messages here. Nobody listened to 5G conspiracy theories . There were no armed rioters at the capitol building. There was no run on toilet paper or hand sanitizer. Everything was done lo-tech in the beginning. There was trust in the government. Why? Because Vietnam has experience in this. When SARS broke out globally, Vietnam was the first country in the world to eradicate it back in 2003, I think it was. They didn't foolishly ignore the country's infectious disease plan because the previous administration designed it. They don't have the monetary or medical resources they have in the U.S. It would be devastating if they lose control in a pandemic. 

Vietnam lost big money on tourism which is about 8% of it's GDP... about $7 billion from January to April. Well, they made up for it making three times that selling masks, PPE, ventilators, etc. to the US, Europe, and the rest of the world. They didn't need everything they made! What's the biggest take-away from that? They did not hesitate to kill off a viable money-making part of their national income for the sake of public health. There was NO hesitation. No argument over the economy. No considerations of what it might do to the leaders politically. No weaponizing a friggin' pandemic or dividing up a country. Just LEADERSHIP!

Model Faerie, ©Terrell Neasley

So where does that put me? I'm a traveler trying to backpack around the world. Frankly, I do not know. Many countries are handling things so differently and it all changes every day. But this is one thing I know. Because of the way the U.S. has mismanaged this health crisis, I can't come home and expect to leave again. I've been traveling for 2 years like this and have gone back Stateside 4 times, I think. I return, stay a month or two, and then leave again.

I can't do that anymore. My US passport is almost worthless right now. The US is the presently the pariah and scourge of the world when it comes to travel. You either can't get in or if you do, you must quarantine for two weeks. But even around here, people see me for the first time and I get the inevitable question. "Are you from the US? How did you get here? WHEN did you get here?" They fear me until I tell them I've been here since February. I can't imagine trying to get into another country right now. If I return to the US, I won't be able to leave. So I'm trying to get a year long visa here in Vietnam. I'll be content and incredibly grateful to explore this country for a year while this thing settles, and then resume my travels thereafter.

In the meantime, I needed something to pick my spirits up and few things do that quite like a nude model. The other day I came across one of my favorite models that helped guide me and develop my craft. As a muse, she's untouchable. I had the privilege of meeting and photographing Art Model Faerie early on as a beginning art nude photographer. Not long after moving to Las Vegas, I had her in my viewfinder honing my skills and improving my craft. She let me practice, experiment, and try out different ideas, techniques, and even bad attempts at art with never a discouraging word. She just kept coming back and offering to help some more. Trust me. Everything did not always go as I planned. Sometimes, I tried some things and they failed. She still came back.

Model Faerie, ©Terrell Neasley

Life got too busy. We both began traveling a lot in different directions. I was going outside the country and she was going across the country. I wish I had tracked her down and followed her to shoot her some more. Yes, that sounded a tad bit creepy but not if you know our world. Aside from how pretty she is and how easy she is to shoot, she's got those smiley eyes that make you smile even if you don't get the joke.

For several years, she worked with me for impromptu shoots and modeled for my Las Vegas Art Model's group as a model for both photography and life drawing classes. It's cool just being around her which is why I sometimes went over just to hang out with her family in the back yard around the fire pit. Yeah... those are good times I need to think about right now. Thank you, Faerie!

Model Faerie, ©Terrell Neasley

17 June 2020

Last Tourist in Hanoi

An interview with local Aspiring Photographer, Stella Nguyen, IG @JpegbyStella,  coming soon! 

“The best journeys in life are those that answer questions you never thought to ask.” 
~ Rich Ridgeway

I've been extremely grateful and impressed with Vietnam and how they have handled the Covid-19 pandemic. Things are just about back to normal and businesses are hustling and the people are back in the streets. I see fewer and fewer people venturing out with masks on. So much so, that I often forget to grab mine before leaving my hotel.

But the one thing that remains empty in the streets are tourists. Hanoi is still devoid of tourists. Am I the last remaining tourist here? I don't know. I haven't seen any immigration stats that prove or disprove that, but it damn sure feels like it. I have seen non-Vietnamese people from all over, but they live here. And I did meet a really great guy who arrived here about the same time I did, Char Bel from Lebanon. He's been traveling the world much like myself, but he just recently left Hanoi.

Char Bel introduced me to some of his peeps. He invited me to a comedy club where comedians excoriated the US. I couldn't say shit because everything they said was true and funny. That, and my dumb ass had to shout out something when a guy on stage said something about Texas. Now everybody knew where the US guy was and they always checked out to see how I was handling the latest joke. We've certainly giving them enough material to work with between the riots, the protests, how we're handling the pandemic, and of course everything tweeted from the White House.
Hanging out with some great peeps at Hanoi Social Club

“Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.” 
~ Lawrence Block

I am the trifecta here. A black tourist from the US. Everybody wants a perspective on what is going on in the United States. Did your president really mean that? Are your people really fighting over toilet paper? Is the police really killing black people? Why do the white people hate you so much? I do my best to be an ambassador for my country. I've been questioned like this EVERY where I go. I've ALWAYS had some sort of answer or explanation that either comforts or better informs. "Do you actually believe, us Canadians, are a National Security threat to the US?" That was in 2018 in Colombia speaking to Canadian tourists in a cooking class I photographed for promotional work for a restaurant.

Recently, however, I was put to shame by a question a young lady asked me, for which I had not answer. There was nothing I could say to comfort and nothing I could say that informed her of any worthwhile reasoning that she simply wasn't privy to. There was no media misinterpretations and nothing was taken out of context.

The young woman could not understand the US. She asked me how the people of Vietnam has treated me. I have been applauding the treatment I've received since I've been here. She went on to tell me that even despite the War, Vietnamese people are very nice and kind and we do not mistreat foreigners. I agreed with her. I have heard of no reports of that sort of mistreatment. Then she asked why Asian people in the US could not expect the same sort of treatment.

I was stunned into silence. I knew what she was referring to. She alluded to all the instances of racial attacks on Asian-Americans, regardless of exactly where they come from, as responsible for Covid-19.

Authorities in New York City and Los Angeles say that hate incidents against people of Asian descent have increased, while a reporting centre run by advocacy groups and San Francisco State University says it received over 1,700 reports of coronavirus-related discrimination from at least 45 US states since it launched in March.
"Coronavirus: What attacks on Asians reveal about American identity" by Helier Cheung & Zhaoyin Feng & Boer Deng, BBC News 27 May 2020

Hate crimes, Anti-Asian assaults, prejudices, and xenophobia rose significantly over the last few months and the title of that article raises a good question. What does this reveal about the American identity? What are we really? All I could say to the young lady was, "I'm sorry. I am so friggin' sorry..." I suddenly felt like I did not belong in this country or deserve to be here. Vietnam has been one of, if not the BEST country to be in, if you want to sit out the Coronavirus. I've been fortunate to be here and have been treated with the utmost respect and professionalism.

It was a heart-breaking experience and this was not long before the policemen murdered George Floyd. Can you feel me? It's like I come to your house and you give me your best room and feed me well. But when you come to my house, my people treat you with mistrust and try to run you down in the road.

I don't know everything there is to know about Vietnam. I only know what I see and what I learn from these great people here who tell me what they think about their country. Everyday, I remember Muhammad Ali when he refused the draft citing he had no quarrel with the Vietnamese people as they have never called him a nigga. My 2020 motto so far... as I find myself often saying has simply been, "Thanks, Vietnam".

I've been extended until August here and am grateful for it. Yet, I am in no hurry to leave. I am not trying to live here, but I would sincerely like to stay for another year, traveling the country and taking pictures. One good year, moving from one end to the other, traveling as slow as I want, stopping where I want, and just taking my time photographing the beauty of Vietnam. I'm doing an online photography landscape course and I want the Vietnam landscape to be the culmination of my study. No clue on how to qualify for either a year-long tourist Visa or a Business Visa. I hope to find out soon and be like the other foreigners who have figured out how to stay. 

22 May 2020

My Top 3 Passions Part 3 - Landscapes

Northern Colombia, ©2018 Terrell Neasley

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."
~ Marcel Proust

It has certainly been a joy to write about this Passion Series. I've tried to articulate what and why these genres are important to me, but after re-reading them, I've only scratched the surface. There are still so much to say on each of these matters. I've only been able to succinctly present my reasoning after I realized one critical truth; It is not imperative that I explain everything. 

That being said, any artist wants to share themselves with the world, at least in part; otherwise why be an artist? If I can find a way to spend my time combining these three loves, that's the dream. I don't know a greater fulfillment, with respect to an artistic perspective, that anyone can hope for. It may not compare to being in love, seeing your firstborn coming into the world, looking into your mother's eyes when she's happy, or witnessing the fulfillment of your faith. But you and I are more than just one of ourselves. There are different aspects of each of us.

Landscape is the third passion of mine in photography. You can't do photography without a place to put what you are photographing. Certainly, you can build a place, of course. I loved spending time in my studio back in Las Vegas. It is a controlled environment, but it is finite. Getting out in nature... in natural settings... that is where the vast infinity of the world lies. I sell more portraiture than landscapes or nudes, but I make much more money with my landscapes than any other single piece of art. I think it means more to me when a client has a landscape of mine hanging on their walls. They've paid significantly more for it and they've made an investment into me. I owe them the best I can do. It's not the same when they hire me to take their portrait and hang themselves on their walls. When they buy my landscape, they hang a piece of me and the story I've told about my adventures and the places I've seen, on display in their homes and businesses.

Western Highland, Guatemala ©2018 Terrell Neasley

Landscape is the is the first and original creation. Before we ever were... landscape was. Landscape is something I had to learn to see. I wasn't born with an "eye" for it. I had to learn, practice, and cultivated that vision. My idea of landscape was the vast mountains of Colorado, or the seascapes of New England with its beaches and lighthouses. I was in Kentucky at the time. I didn't think landscape existed there. Some nice pictures could be had from time to time, but not artistic landscapes. Or so, I thought. I've since learned better. For me, I had to get out from where I was and then look back. It's something akin to getting high above the forest to actually see the vastness of the woods. It has a an infinite degree of compositional dimensions. Let me touch on a few:

Landscape takes on a different life at night than it does during the day. That's another degree of infinity. Therefore, time is a chronological compositional dimension. At night, the nocturnal activities, the atmosphere, and your attitude about the landscape takes on another persona, much like a split personality. Seasonal differences can be another aspect of that. A fall scene in Middle Tennessee going East on Interstate 40 from Nashville is something to behold. The leaves are changing to their splendid and vibrant fall colors. Do that same drive 3 months later and you lose it all. 

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala ©2018 Terrell Neasley

Landscape in Ecuador will be different from landscape in Egypt. Therefore geography is an obvious infinite degree of compositional dimension. This is one of a few factors that drive my desire to travel. I want to see God's creation in the different parts of the globe for two reasons. One, is the beauty of the creation itself. Two, I get to witness and better understand the impact that the landscape has on the culture and evolution of the people who make their home in these places. It was an humbling moment to witness a little old woman in Germany kick my ass walking up a mountain carrying a bundle of something that I can only imagine she's done a million times over her life. She was every bit the size of a Hobbit, and yet she walked past me and my crew like we were walking backwards up that mountain. 

"Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you."
~ Frank Lloyd Wright

Landscape can be active or static. In a sense, it is always changing. I mean... technically, plate tectonics cause continental drift as fast as 2 inches a year. New landmass is being created all the time in one place and destroyed in another. Circle of Life. But you can look at photos of the Old West of the 1800's and hold it against the horizon of the same place today and not much has changed. It's static. Look at a glacial landscape of just 20 years ago... not so static. It's much more dynamic (thanks to Climate Change).  

Landscape can also be affected by the weather. One location can be vastly different when taken on a cloudy day versus in the full sun. Try shooting in inclement  weather! Landscape became alive to me after I moved to Las Vegas and saw Valley of Fire and Red Rock. I moved there during the summer. But years later, when we got a good snow, the Red Rock mountains were covered in white and I thought it was the most beautiful thing I've witnessed on land. But hey... keep living! And then you can look at the affect animals have on landscape. Google how Yellowstone changed after wolves were reintroduced. Ask the folks down in Ushuaia, Argentina how beavers, an invasive species there, has changed it's landscape

Nevada Deserts ©2013 Terrell Neasley

Landscape doesn't have to be shot with a wide-angle lens. I still like fast lenses for it, but it's not imperative. I shoot with a 24 and a 55. BUT, I can shoot vertical orientation with an L-Bracket and a tripod and stitch multiple shots together for a high-resolution pano that renders more detail and less distortion than what a single shot wide-angle lens can deliver. Ansel Adams is perhaps the best known landscape photographer. He got his detail from hiking a Large Format Camera around the mountains of Yosemite. I can't imagine what that's like. Hauling a huge camera up and down elevation changes of thousands of feet and limited to maybe 6 shots.

Landscape doesn't care about you. It's indifferent and doesn't even recognize you. And it is for this reason that you must respect it and cherish it when you, because it does recognize what you do to it. Sometimes, there are sacrifices it demands of you if you want your shot. I've been stupid. Too stupid. In one instance, I risked my life and the shot did not prove remarkable. But how could I know until I took it. Understand the risks you take when you love something or someone that much. Passion, like a coin, has two sides. But if you don't let it kill you, can you ever say you loved it?

And there you have it. My top 3 passions of photography. I hope you can identify with them, as well. If not, I encourage you to explore a little bit. Don't stop learning. I'm presently enrolled in an online landscaping course with someone I believe I can learn from. You will learn so much about yourself and further advance your understanding of light. And I will try to get over my inability, in some instances, where I can't take a landscape photo without a nude model. No promises...

Thank you.

Art Model, Viki Vegas, Nude in Landscape, ©2011 Terrell Neasley

17 May 2020

My Top 3 Passions Part 2 - The Nude

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2018 Terrell Neasley

"Life is either a great adventure or nothing."
~Helen Keller 

Indeed, the truth is that it all began with with The Portrait, but it is The Nude which has sustained me. Faces are what drew me in, captivated my attention, and piqued my interest. The Nude is what made me promise to commit to the art of photography and strive to better my understanding of light and how it falls on the female figure. Then it stretched my imagination on the infinite methods I might employ to capture it.

Like a hunter, my quest begins with the tools I might use to snare my prey... how to choose them and how to use those tools. Camera selection, lens selection, composition, etcetera. I learn to perfect my skill with each pursuit of the light. I think that's an interesting analogy, but remember the subject in this sense is light, not the model. I'm trying to capture the light to make nude art. Therefore, it is as imperative to understand my relationship with the model as much as it is for me to understand my camera, my quary (light), and also myself. The nude is not about a naked model, it's about the art she helps create.

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2018 Terrell Neasley

To capture this light, I need the collaborative effort of a model. We hunt as a pair. She flushes out the light, while I wait for the decisive moment to shoot. Can you feel me? It is all in vain if there is a failure anywhere in that collaboration, be it in the model, myself, or my camera. I've had upsets in all 3 areas over the years, but I have gotten better at making adjustments. I can help direct the model and work within her capabilities. I can hone my own skills. And in many cases, where there is a failure in the equipment, I have been able to circumvent and make due to accomplish the goal. And yes, sometimes that means, fix it in post, but I hate that. I want as much as I can get out of the camera. Man! I could tell you stories!

There have been some instances where it was the model who saved the day. Maybe she has a particular means of inspiration, knowledge of a location, or just has the right attitude that helps salvage the project. I've experienced all of this and more. The art is what matters. Nothing else. Sure, model safety and comfort are never a second priority to anything. Aside from that, it is the art. She might brave the cold, be willing to get messy, or lend to the art with some other unique talent that adds to and compliments my vision. That's what a muse does.

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2018 Terrell Neasley

The nude transcends superficial attributes like debates over societal norms and taboos. Some debate over the difference between nude and naked. I like to keep it simple and this is just me. A nude can be naked, but not all that is naked can be a nude... like a Rolls Royce can be a car, but not all cars can be a Rolls. There is a difference with taking a photo of a naked girl. That just means she's not wearing clothes. To me, the nude is an evolved form of nakedness that has a degree of deeper purpose. If naked is 2 dimensional, the Nude is 3D. You can be naked to take a shower or sunbathe. The nude is about creation. You are creating something that is expected to last and is born of imagination, vision, and will, with the latter being of utmost importance. You can have an idea with your imagination and you vision can help you plan it. But it all comes down to the will to execute that sparks creation. Therein lies your Big Bang.

And it is this phenomenon that has helped me like a therapist over the years which has made me evolve myself and my cameras. My brother's thing was fishing. I have friends whose lives revolve around sports. Some people out of desperation have a more destructive crutch and become dependent on chemical means of coping. 

All my adult young life was built on violence of action. As an infantryman, a soldier, I trained to be elite. I wanted to be the best, or at least the best I could be. To me, that was becoming a US Army Ranger and I have always been good with shooting guns since my childhood days. I don't care what it was. If it launched a projectile, I could put it on target and make a mess of something.

Art Model, Jennifer ©2019 Terrell Neasley

"As you grow older, you'll find the only things you regret are the things you didn't do."
~Zachary Scott

Now, I shoot something that creates instead of destroys. It brings peace, instead of destruction. I don't touch guns anymore. I got out of the military in 1998 and 1999 was my last time to touch a weapon. Six years after that, I picked up a camera and it had the same affect as the M-16. Both felt like an extension of my arm and my body. Instead of pulling a trigger, I pushed a shutter release button. Instead of aiming to kill, I aim to thrill. I still look down the sights/viewfinder to find my target and I go hunting for the light. The art nude is my favorite drug of choice and I do not tire of it.

Favorite genre of nude to shoot? Well, I have two. I love shooting nudes in nature and natural surroundings. But equally so, I absolutely adore shooting a nude model indoors doing ordinary things, just being naked. Be it lounging, household activities, or even sleeping (I love love love capturing a sleeping nude!) these are my favorite ways of baiting the light. I can have a camera on her 24/7. Also nudes in public, but they are much tougher to do. 

Basically, I am a byproduct of inspiration from Edward Weston who shot nudes on his adventure out west, Harry Callahan, who shot nudes close to home, and also Spencer Tunick, who shoots nudes en masse all over the world. The first two shot their wives who are two of my favorite model inspirations... Charis Wilson and Eleanor Callahan, respectively. Charis put photography on the map as an art form since she wrote the proposal for Weston to get the first two Guggenheim Fellowship grants ever awarded to a photographer. Eleanor is like a muse mold. You start with her.
 “I never refused when he wanted to take a picture,” said Eleanor Callahan, the 91-year-old widow of the photographer Harry Callahan. “I never complained, whatever I was doing." ~ Eleanor Callahan, "The Artist's Wife: The Constant Muse Who Never Said No",  NYTimes, Oct 2, 2007.

Art Model, Jennifer ©2019 Terrell Neasley

Least Favorite?
Implied. I generally can't stand implied nudes. It's one thing if a few implied nudes are wrapped up in my regular shooting, but if I'm doing only implieds, then I'm getting paid and will be happy to do it. Otherwise, I can't often use it in my art and I have no motivation for it. Conceptually, I don't think I even understand it. If everything is hidden, why do nudes? I don't knock it when other shooters or models do it. I have the utmost respect for all my peers who do this. It's just not for me. I work best when I'm able to shoot with options to imagine and then create it. The less restrictions, the better. If it pops into my mind, I like the freedom to explore it, experiment with it, and see if it works. Sometimes, it doesn't but I learn more from what doesn't work than I do with what does. 

Art Model, Jennifer ©2019 Terrell Neasley

Biggest challenges? Right now? Finding models to work with! In the U.S., I almost always had a nude model available to me... concentrating on one woman or several. Over the years, I have shot less and less different models. I'd average about 10 models a month when I first began. Over the years, that dwindled down to a select few as I tended to work more with familiar models instead of new models. But I'm traveling now and that has made things just a little bit tougher. In two years, I've photographed only 3 travel models... none of them being locals, to my chagrin. Kayci.Lee came with me for a month, Jennifer met me in Peru, and I met Athena, who was already there, on my second trip through Peru... all American women. It would be nice to shoot a local model, but I honestly don't care. The one who shows up gets my appreciation. My preference is shooting the same woman all over the world. I think there's more art to be made from that. A grand adventure story can build from it. 

How are my nudes different? I think I differentiate in several ways. One is that I tend to work with a myriad of different women of various body shapes, ages, and sizes. I've photographed large heavy women as well as tiny ones. I've worked with women in their 70's and one woman who turned 18 years of age the day before our first shoot. I don't think I need the "perfect" body or a cover girl model in order to make my art.

Art Model, @Athena Demos ©2019 Terrell Neasley

One other way is that I don't shy away from explicit nude work. To me, the nude is the nude. I've often said, I shoot all the nude, the whole nude, and nothing but the nude. I am noted for doing macro vulva and nipple work as much as I do far away nudes where you don't even notice the naked woman in the landscape upon first glance. I thoroughly enjoy my macro work and it's a whole new universe within itself. The different textures of a labia or nipple are brought out in the close-up and it becomes an abstract composition to where, at times, the subject becomes lost and something entirely new is created. I once had a man complement me on a shot he thought was aerial view of a mountain range, when in fact, it was a macro composition of a woman's areola

It was a model, the second I had ever worked with who taught me this. She was an art model for the drawing class at Murray State University. As a beginner, I was far too modest as a shooter. I had to make sure the nude model had her legs together to protect her virtue. When she took a pose that exposed her genitalia, I tried to object. She insisted that I take the shot as if I had offended her. Then she went on to tell me to never censor my artwork. She insisted that the joining of her thighs were just as much artful as the rest of herself. There will be enough people to try to do it for me that I don't need to help them. There was a story behind all that, as I discovered soon after.

What other nudes do I enjoy? Serial work. I enjoy shooting a series and noting the changes over time. Doing a series of how the body changes from one moment to the next is fascinating to me. It can be changes in age, like I've done with Kayci.Lee, shooting her since she was 23. Or it can be postpartum changes like I've done with Panda. Even changes in looks throughout a single day can have profound impacts on art creation. The body is extraordinary. I already mentioned loving to do sleeping nudes. That's capturing a part of a model that's rarely seen... I think. I do that whenever I can.

Art Model, @Athena Demos ©2019 Terrell Neasley

What is the best art nude photo you have ever seen, that is not yours? Art Nude Photographer, Dave Rudin took an image of Carlota Champagne in the Nevada Deserts and it is still the best photo that has ever been taken, nude or otherwise.

This all goes far deeper than I can get into in a single blog post. That would be impossible. I've had some people become upset because they don't understand why I might run into a landscape that is so beautiful, but I can't take the shot. It was because my vision for it calls for a nude and there wasn't one available. I don't care. It matters little to me that other people might become frustrated with regards to what I do or do not shoot. They've not taken the time to understand or even ask. So be it. 

Art Model, @Athena Demos ©2019 Terrell Neasley

I am indebted and grateful to all the models who have trusted me and allowed me to exhibit them in my art. I am enthusiastically appreciative of those who have elected to join me on this life journey around the world. Kayci.Lee helped me to simply get started on this journey right after a trio of difficult personal life events... the Vegas shooting, the death of a close friend, and a 4-year relationship breakup.

Jennifer came along during the absolute most devastating time of my life the following year when my brother had just recently died. ABSOLUTE MOST DEVASTATING! [Dang! Jenny! Do you remember meeting that guy on the night of my late brother's birthday who introduced himself with the same name as my brother?? He felt like shit and then proceed to get me drunk on Pisco Sours. Fuck, I'm still tearing up over that, now...] 

WHEW! Anyway! And meeting Athena was one of the most fortuitous experiences I can recall in recent memory. That was an experience in enlightenment. It's all been about timing. Take either of these 3 out of my life equation and I'm a mess. Okay, that is all.